"Iraqi forces were massing north of Baghdad on Friday, aiming to strike back at Sunni Islamists whose drive toward the capital prompted the United States to send military advisers to stiffen government resistance." Reuters
"In the area around Samarra, on the main highway 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, which has become a frontline of the battle with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the provincial governor, a rare Sunni supporter of Maliki, told cheering troops they would now force ISIL and its allies back.
A source close to Maliki told Reuters that the government planned to hit back now that it had halted the advance which saw ISIL seize the main northern city of Mosul, capital of Nineveh province, 10 days ago and sweep down along the Sunni-populated Tigris valley toward Baghdad as the U.S.-trained army crumbled.
Governor Abdullah al-Jibouri, whose provincial capital Tikrit was overrun last week, was shown on television on Friday telling soldiers in Ishaqi, just south of Samarra: "Today we are coming in the direction of Tikrit, Sharqat and Nineveh.
"These troops will not stop," he added, saying government forces around Samarra numbered more than 50,000." Reuters
One of the major errors being made in the US military concerning the present situation in Iraq is to view it solely as a COIN/CT problem. The media has picked this up and people like "Chuck" Todd are now urging the adoption of CT methods like those in use in Yemen. The Iraq situation is much more than that, but the US armed forces seem to be so hypnotised by the COIN/CT experience that they can see little else.
This expected advance from the Baquba/Samarra area will be the major opportunity that the Iraq military will have to reverse the situation and regain ground lost to the north in the direction of Mosul. What has been assembled for the effort is the bulk of the maneuver reserve of the Iraqi Army. Once launched on this offensive, the "wind up" mechanism inherently present in any army will start to run down as distance, resistance, weather, maintenance problems, expenditures of supplies; fuel (POL), ammuniition and food all contribute to a decline in capability as the force moves forward. The question then becomes whether or not the offensive or attack reaches the objective before the negatives affecting the operation outweigh the positive factors. The point at which this crossover of factors and weights occurs was described by Clausewitz as the "culminating point" of the attack. The way this works is that if the attack carries to the objective before the culminating point is reached success is easily achieved. If the culminating point is reached before the objective is taken, then the situation of the attacking force becomes more and more tenuous and the stage is set for a sudden and dramatic reversal of positions, one in which the attacking force finds itself on the defensive far from its base of supply. We will see. It is a long way to Mosul from Baquba. (Humor: perhaps this maximum effort could be called "Operation mawt li mu'awiya")
At the same time, another rebel coalition force lurks to the West in eastern Anbar Province positioned to move against the flank or supply lines of an Iraqi Army force moving north toward Mosul.
This is not a good position to be in considering the performance to date of Iraqi government forces.
The functions of US personnel re-injected into this maelstrom are several. Most importantly, they will try to advise Iraqi commanders how better to use their available forces. Good luck to them on that job! What leverage will they have in doing this? Some others will be there to use laser designators to signal targets to bombers if it becomes necessary to defend Baghdad. Yet others are available to organize an evacuation if that becomes necessary. There are also 150 men for embassy security. These are all difficult tasks. pl
I include a link to an article I wrote with partners on the subject of culminating points in the US civil war. It is entitled "Jackson's Valley Campaign and the Operational Level of War." It was published in Parameters, the US Army War College Journal in 1985